In Developing Countries, A New Site Strives to Connect Travelers with Locals

by  Zachary Laks | Mar 16, 2015
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth / efetova/iStock

These days, travel is more and more about immersive experiences that help you truly connect with the destination's culture. For those who love meeting the locals, here's the latest resource to catch our attention: I Like Local, a website that offers local-led tours and activities in developing countries to help you head down the path less traveled. We like that the site gives 100 percent of the fees to the most important people involved -- the expert guides -- without charging them a service fee. For a taste of what's offered, here are five adventures we'd love to embark on for glimpsing how another part of the world lives:

Immerse Yourself in Rajasthan Farm Life
Jaipur, India

$35 per person
The remarkable size and scale of India is hard to fathom, especially when trying to plan an itinerary that explores the many riches of the country. For an authentic experience that demonstrates India’s agricultural force, you’ll want to add a stay at Jaipur’s Rajasthan Farm Life. MaliramSji, a local farmer and his wife Manju, welcome guests to their thatched-roof home where all are encouraged (though not required) to join in on the daily chores of the farm. Get your work clothes on as the sunrise waits for no one and the goats are hungry, the cows need milking, and the crops are in full bloom. You'll be treated to three meals here, but if you love cooking, don’t miss the opportunity to stand alongside Manju as she uses the fresh farm produce and local spices to whip up traditional dishes.

Street Food Heritage Walk
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

$60 per person
A sense of culinary adventure is required for this three-hour immersive look into the oddities and delicacies of street food in bustling Kuala Lumpur. The tour focuses on family stalls with a long culinary history and centers around the city center’s Petaling Street -- where the char kuew teow (rice noodles), roti canai (flatbread), and chendul/cendol (cold dessert soup) are second to none. Kuala Lumpur native Pauline (or one of her fellow foodies) will also guide visitors in tasting Malaysian Liberica coffee, alongside a wide array of sweets and pastries from their favorite vendors. Finally, travelers will navigate the world of Chinese medicinal herbs and plants with samples of teas.

The Art of Pottery Making
Yogyakarta, Indonesia

$15 per person
Put down your camera and pick up some clay as you take a break from Indonesia's majestic sights at a teaching pottery studio located in Yogyakarta. It's the perfect place for a lesson, considering Yogyakarta's rich reputation for arts and craftsmanship -- it's known for silver and batik, among others, as well as pottery. Let resident artist Erna lead you in a private five-hour village visit and class at her own pottery practice, with a chance at trying your hand at the wheel. With a two-person cap, you know you'll be getting quality instruction. You'll leave with a friend in Erna as well as a souvenir to take home.

Go Fishing with Local Fishermen in Sri Lanka
Weerawila, Sri Lanka

$54 per person
Cast your net wide with this opportunity to spend the morning fishing with local fishermen of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans rely on fishing as a primary source of food and have perfected the art of harnessing their lake’s rich supply of fish. You'll have the chance to learn their best tips for a host of fishing techniques, from fly fishing to net fishing to the more traditional angling. Be on the lookout for giant prawns as well as fish -- just mind the crocodiles on the shores as you make your way out on one of Weerawila’s lakes! Afterward, the fishermen will bring you to a picnic landing, where your freshly caught fished will be grilled up al fresco with Sri Lankan spices (or to your taste).

Banteay Chhmar Homestay
Banteay Chhmar, Cambodia

$5 per person per night
You know you're getting a truly authentic experience when you need a translator to communicate with your host. In Banteay Chhmar, a northwest city along the Thailand border with a wealth of lesser-known temples and artifacts, Loeun and his family have graciously opened up their homes to travelers, in partnership with English-speaking "community-based tourism" guides. When you've had your fill of Angkor Wat's main attractions, make your way here to mingle to local Khmer families. Expect smiles, flavorful homemade meals (not included in rate), and a very personal look into Cambodian life.

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